Alas, whither Charlotte County goest?
It isn’t often that a fairly large community gets a chance to make significant changes in the direction in which it is headed. For the most part communities are victims, good or bad, of what happened to them in their past as the result of helter-skelter development. Fortunately this does not appear to be the case with Charlotte County.
There is ample space around Charlotte Harbor in the form of vacant property, publicly owned facilities and private property which could be converted to other uses. Another example is the Murdock Village financial boondoggle that appears to have a reasonable chance of rescue (lemons into lemonade?). Also consider the Punta Gorda Airport and the significant amount of commercial, so-called shovel-ready property adjacent to two entrances to the interstate highway. A major development is in the works for Murdock Village and serious considerations are being given by large and small businesses for areas around the airport. As the economy improves the rate of development will probably increase and “jobs” will be created.
The citizens of Charlotte County might want to consider what they envision their county to be going forward. Unlike most communities in other states, many of the county’s residents are transplants from all over the north who selected Charlotte County in which to retire due to the easy access to water and the laid-back style of living. A reasonable tax rate was no minor consideration either. Unrestricted development could have an adverse impact on these values and may not be as good a solution to the employment issue that is often touted.
The county can offer incentives in the form of cash and tax incentives to lure businesses to locate in Charlotte County. Often businesses bring their own employees or must hire skilled people that do not live in the area. In this case people become a burden on county facilities without a sufficient offset from new tax revenues. Schools are an example of this. A family with children in school does not provide sufficient revenue from its property tax payment to pay for the children’s education. This burden falls on other, childless tax payers. Therefore, more businesses equal greater educational expenses. This is not meant to be a “bah-humbug” criticism, simply a statement of fact that under some circumstances businesses moving into the county can become a burden with little if any offsetting revenue to the county.
The county’s educational facilities may be able to provide training to existing residents for the skills needed, but only if the schools are aware of what’s needed and can provide the education in time for when the jobs are available. Based on this writer’s prior experience in industry, this is a Catch-22 that is very difficult to overcome and can force the importation of people possessing the needed skills. Sarasota attempted to lure a pharmaceutical company. How many biologists, biochemists, and bacteriologists with doctorate degrees currently reside there? Probably not many, if any at all.
The Punta Gorda Airport and its associated noise is another point to ponder. Residents should ask friends and neighbors who in their prior lives lived near airports. Currently a plane passes overhead occasionally, but this could become bothersome as passenger and freight services increase due to greater business settlement in Charlotte County. Granted, airplanes are quieter and can be routed over less populated areas, but are noisy none-the-less.
These are just a few of the issues involved with economic development. Will Charlotte County slowly grow into the county that many of the residents relocated to escape (only with nice winter weather)? Will it be beneficial to the people who were born and raised here? Be sure that the county is growing in the direction desired by all.
Anthony J. Biell
November 15, 2011